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Chinese Five Spice Powder Substitutes (5 Spice)

Last Updated on August 16, 2023

Chinese Five Spice (5 Spice) is a unique spice blend for creating authentic Asian dishes.

For those who love the flavorful depth and tantalizing aroma of Chinese cuisine, you’re likely familiar with the key ingredient. but sometimes it’s not readily available or suitable for every dietary preference.

five spice powder substitute

Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered with this blog! Discover various delicious substitutes that will surely keep your taste buds satisfied while retaining those exotic flavors in your cooking.

Chinese Five Spice And The Need For Substitutes

Chinese Five-Spice is a distinctive seasoning blend widely used in Chinese cuisine, known for its unique balance of sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty flavors.

This aromatic spice mix typically consists of five key ingredients: star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, fennel seeds, cinnamon or cassia bark (Chinese cinnamon), and cloves.

It is a popular blend of five spices that adds a unique flavor to dishes, but in the event you don’t have it on hand or prefer not to use it, knowing alternative substitutes can be beneficial.

Thus, having alternatives on hand ensures that your food retains a similar taste and aroma without compromising its overall quality.

Moreover, some individuals may have dietary restrictions or preferences that prevent them from using certain ingredients in their meals.

There are countless reasons why one might substitute it in their cooking adventures, but accessibility and personal taste preferences remain typical drivers.

Store-Bought Chinese 5 Spice Powder Seasoning Alternative 

Learn how to make your own Chinese 5-Spice powder at home, or try out some common substitutes like garam masala, chili, and allspice to enhance the flavor in your Asian-inspired dishes.

1. Make Your Own Authentic Chinese Five Spice Powder

One of the easiest ways is to make it yourself at home.

All you need is a Chinese Five Spice recipe with pantry staples, a blender, spice grinder, or coffee grinder (even use a mortar and pestle): ground cinnamon, ground cloves, whole spices, fennel seeds, Sichuan peppercorn (or regular black peppercorns), and star anise.

Homemade Chinese Five Spice not only provides a suitable substitute but also allows you to customize the flavor profile according to your preference.

Some people may find traditional Chinese 5-spice too overpowering; by making your own, you can adjust the ratios of each accordingly.

2. Ground Cinnamon

It is a key substitute as it provides a warm and sweet flavor that complements many classic Chinese dishes. Its familiar aroma and taste have made it popular in both savory and sweet dishes worldwide.

One teaspoon can be used to replace one teaspoon of Chinese 5 Spice in recipes such as stir-fries, marinades or rubs, stews, soups, or even baked goods like cookies or bread.

3. Garam Masala

Garam Masala is an Indian spice that can be used as a substitute. It usually contains a mix of ground spices, such as cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.

Garam Masala has a warm and fragrant flavor profile that can add depth to any dish.

In cooking with garam masala as a substitute, it’s important to note that the two spice mixes have different taste profiles.

Garam Masala tends to be spicier than Chinese Five Spice; however, it still provides the sweet and savory notes needed in many dishes.

Some examples of dishes where garam masala works well include curries, stews, or soups containing lentils or beans.

4. Allspice

Allspice is a popular spice that has similar flavors to those found in five-spice powder It is made from the dried berries of the allspice tree and has warm, sweet notes with undertones of cinnamon and cloves.

It is an excellent substitute for five-spice powder when you’re short on some ingredients or looking for a slightly different flavor profile.

Try adding allspice in your next stir-fry recipe for added depth and warmth which are common in Chinese cooking.

When substituting all spices for 5 spices, add it gradually as it can quickly overpower other spices if not used correctly.

5. Star Anise

Star anise brings its unique licorice-like flavor to the mix. However, if you are looking for a substitute due to allergies or personal preference, you only need a very tiny amount when it comes to star anise.

6. Baharat

Another great substitute for Five-Spice powder is Baharat, a popular Middle Eastern seasoning that adds depth and complexity to many dishes.

Baharat is typically made with a mixture of nutmeg, allspice, paprika, and clove. When using Baharat as a substitute, keep in mind that it may be more spicy than the original depending on the specific recipe. 

7. Za’atar

Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix that can be used as an alternative to five-spice powder. This flavorful blend typically includes dried thyme, marjoram, sesame seeds, sumac, and salt.

It also adds a unique earthy and nutty flavor profile to dishes and can be easily found in specialty stores or online. Perfect for adding complexity to vegetables before roasting.

8. Szechuan Peppercorns


Szechuan peppercorns, also known as Sichuan pepper, are a great alternative. These tiny, reddish-brown berries give off a unique aroma and flavor that distinguishes them from other spices. 

They are both numbing and citrusy, which makes them perfect for spicy dishes. Because of their potency, it is best to use them in moderation, as adding too many can make your dish overpowering.

9. Ras El Hanout

Ras el hanout is a North African spice blend that’s often used as a substitute for 5 Spice. This blend typically includes ingredients such as cardamom, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, and turmeric.

Though it doesn’t taste exactly like Chinese Five Spice (given the different ingredients), Ras el Hanout still has a complex flavor profile with warm and aromatic notes that make it an excellent option to add depth to meat dishes or stews.

Choosing The Right Spice Blend Substitute

When choosing a substitute, it’s important to consider dish compatibility, adjust seasoning as needed, and take into account availability and dietary restrictions.

Dish Compatibility:

It’s important to consider dish compatibility when choosing a substitute. The flavor profiles of the substitutes can vary, so it’s essential to use a substitute that complements or enhances the dish you’re making.

For example, Garam Masala is an excellent substitute for savory dishes like curries and stews, while allspice works well in sweet desserts and baked goods.

When using a substitute, it’s also essential to adjust the amount of seasoning to achieve the desired taste. Start by adding small amounts until you reach your desired flavor profile.

Additionally, if you have dietary restrictions or availability issues with some ingredients, you may need to choose another alternative that fits your needs.

Adjusting Seasoning:

When substituting Chinese Five-Spice powder in cooking, it’s essential to adjust the seasoning of your dishes accordingly.

While each substitute brings its unique flavor profile, it’s crucial to use the right amount of seasoning to avoid overpowering or underwhelming your dish.

For example, garam masala is a popular alternative that blends warm and sweet spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.

Similarly, allspice has warming notes with hints of clove and pepper flavor. Suppose you’re swapping Chinese Five Spice with allspice in a meat rub recipe; start by halving the recommended amount before gradually adding more to achieve desired boldness while avoiding overwhelming the flavors.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, using Chinese Five Spice substitutes can truly enhance the flavors in your cooking.

Homemade blends such as Garam Masala and Allspice work well when making dishes like stir-fries or baked goods.

Choosing suitable substitutions depends on many factors, such as the availability of ingredients.

When selecting spices, consider how each one will interact with other ingredients in your dish while also ensuring they complement the overall taste profile of your meal.

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five spice powder substitute

Homemade Chinese Five-Spice Powder

This Homemade Chinese Five-Spice Powder recipe is a blend of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns, and fennel seeds. It's perfect for stir-fries, marinades, and so much more!
5 from 2 votes
Print Rate
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 0.5 cup
Calories: 99kcal
Author: SHU-CHUN




  • Place all the ingredients in a spice grinder and grind fine powder.


Calories: 99kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 0.3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 17mg | Potassium: 424mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 0.3g | Vitamin A: 105IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 294mg | Iron: 5mg

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